Dispatcher answers last call

An Auglaize County dispatcher reported to work for the last time Friday — ending nearly a 24-year career with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office.

Carolyn Zenz, who started more than two decades ago, celebrated her career Friday with former and current dispatchers and deputies at the Sheriff’s Office.

“Carolyn Zenz has been a great asset to this office,” fellow dispatcher Mary Vorhees said.

Her ability to multi-task did not escape the eye of Sheriff Al Solomon.

“She is one of the very few people I know that can be taking a complaint on the phone or at the window, hear what’s going on on the radio and still hear a deputy say where they are headed and comprehend it all,” Solomon said. “We are certainly going to miss her. She is fabulous at what she does.”

Solomon described Zenz as “dedicated and willing to take on a lot of responsibility when she was hired and the Sheriff’s Office went to full-time dispatchers.”

He said she “served this office and the public very well in this position.”

Zenz was quick to talk about her love of the job she was hired to perform by the late Sheriff Larry Longsworth.

“I really like the job,” Zenz said. “It was never boring, you never knew what was going to happen when you picked up that phone, you never knew what you’ve got going on at the other end of that line.”

She also exhibited her honesty, saying the thought of retirement is kind of scary, but she said she and her husband will work on the “honey-do list” which the Wapakoneta couple have been trying to get to for years.

Zenz, whose husband, Ron, served more than 20 years as a firefighter with the Wapakoneta Fire Department and now teaches at the Apollo Career Center, started her job as a dispatcher in 1989.

A friend told her about the opening with the county — a position that required strength of character as she and others crossed a gender lines since “when I started they never had had any women dispatchers here,” Zenz said.

“It was just something totally different than I had ever done before,” Zenz said. “I knew a little about it being around the fire department.”

Through the years, she has witnessed a lot of changes. First and foremost, they moved from a small office and jail on South Blackhoof Street to the state-of-the-art facility on Dearbaugh Avenue.

When she started, they would punch a time card and keep track of times and calls on a log sheet. Today, their time and emergency calls are all on computer — the Sheriff’s Office is on its fourth or fifth computer system.

She said computer technology was one of the biggest changes during her years as a dispatcher. The other was the severity of the calls.

“The calls have gotten worse,” Zenz said. “It reflects the change in the times, but there seem to be more violent crimes now.

“The calls you sent the guys on, they used to be the deputies didn’t get too excited,” she said. “Now, you never what you are sending them out on.”

With her retirement, she said she will not miss the morning alarm clock going off, but she will miss her co-workers.

Zenz based her decision to retire for several reasons. Keeping tabs on changes at the state level, she contemplated retirement when state leaders and lawmakers started making changes to benefits and retirement packages.

Another reason was her friend and former dispatcher Charisse Zuppardo retired in April 2011 and many of the deputies she knew when she was hired in also have retired.

With her retirement, she will get to spend more time with her husband, children and grandchild.

The Zenzes plan to spend more time with their children. They have two daughters, Lorina Zenz, who is lives in Wapakoneta and is a registered nurse working on becoming a nurse practioner, and April Albers, who is a fourth-grade teacher, at Celina’s East Elementary School. They also have an 8-year-old granddaughter, Audrey Albers.

“I really enjoyed working here, but there just comes a time to retire,” Zenz said. “You want to be able to do stuff, too, and I want to travel — if you want to go somewhere you can go without any worries.”